Friday, October 23, 2009

The Last Gourmet


It came today in the mail; my very last copy of Gourmet Magazine. I held it in my hands for a moment, still in its protective plastic mailer and nodded, sighed, and set it down on my desk. The glistening and golden brown Thanksgiving turkey on the front cover stared back at me. An accidentally ominous subscription card poked out from beneath the magazine: "Last Chance Offer For Gourmet Subscribers", it read.

It was like finding a message on your answering machine left by a friend the day before they suddenly and unexpectedly died. Even they thought they would be here tomorrow, but 'the powers that be' had other plans and snatched them away without warning.

I wanted to leave it there in its austere wrapping, inner subscription cards intact, and never open it, leaving it for someone else to unwrap years from now. But, like that lost friend, I had to read the last words, see the last photos. I had to breathe in that new magazine smell one last time from within its still-stiff and brand new pages.

Once I'm done reading cover to cover, like always, I'll put it away on the same shelf the others are on, but it won't stay there - none of them do. I'll take it down over and over again to reference a recipe or story, and enjoy it each and every time, but maybe a little more than the rest simply because it is ... the last Gourmet.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sweet Pumpkin Cornmeal Mush

Sweet Pumpkin Cornmeal Mush
Sweet Pumpkin Cornmeal Mush
What the rest of the world calls 'polenta', those of us with a Southern and Midwestern family influence call 'cornmeal mush'. Normally we eat it savory, smothered in butter, salt and often times, cheese.

Wanting to do something a little different, I decided to go sweet, with pumpkin, and the result is velvety and divine. Leave out the very small amount of butter and this can easily go vegan.


Sweet Pumpkin Cornmeal Mush
Sweet Pumpkin Cornmeal Mush

Sweet Pumpkin Cornmeal Mush
Serves 8
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Printable Recipe

3 cups water - divided
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup finely ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar - divided
1/3 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Blend together 1 cup water and cornmeal - set aside.
3. Combine 2 cups water and pumpkin puree in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and pour in cornmeal slurry, stirring constantly with a wire whisk.
4. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring until thickened, which is almost immediately.
5. Remove from heat and stir in 1/3 cup brown sugar, vanilla, butter and pumpkin pie spice. Blend well.
6. Pour into 8 small (1 1/2 cup capacity) oven-safe bowls.
7. Stir together 1/3 cup brown sugar and pecans. Top each bowl evenly with mixture.
8. Place bowls on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until brown sugar is melted and bubbling. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Busy People's Fast & Frugal Cookbook by Dawn Hall

Photo and recipe used with permission from Dawn Hall and Thomas Nelson Publishing

I don't normally 'gush' about anything. I get excited, but I try to keep myself in check when I find something I like. I can't contain this: I adore Dawn Hall!

I got to speak with Dawn yesterday on the phone for quite some time. I called to interview her for today's post at the HalfHourMeals.com blog, Food for Thought. Once we got to talking, we couldn't stop. I knew that we had a few things in common, but after chatting for a bit, the parallels between our lives just kept going on. I could well have stayed on the phone to no end with her, but the kids kept interrupting and dinner needed to be made, so we said our good-byes and promised to keep in touch.

Today is the debut of Dawn's 10th book, her 8th Busy People's cookbook, Busy People's Fast & Frugal Cookbook. I've looked over recipes, read other reviews and talked with the woman herself and I can tell you this: There is nothing fussy about this or any one of her cookbooks - it's just good food, simply (and frugally!) prepared in 30 minutes or less and with 7 ingredients or less - and healthy to boot. It's the perfect addition to any busy person's collection (and aren't we all busy nowadays?) with the added benefit of each and every recipe fitting into a tight budget - and I know we all fit into that category lately.

You can read more about Dawn at HalfHourMeals.com or at her website DawnHallCookbooks.com, on the Cooking for Busy People Fan Page on Facebook, on Twitter, on her television show, Cooking for Busy People and at YouTube.com. That's more than enough Dawn to keep you busy for a while!

Here is a recipe of hers that I like for several reasons; my kids would all like it, it's super-fast to make and I can definitely fit it into my budget. Everything you need to know to make this is here (and in the book!) from timing to equipment to shopping lists. Also check out one of her soup recipes posted today at A Thousand Soups. You can purchase a copy of Busy People's Fast & Frugal Cookbook at Amazon.com.

Apple Pie with Granola Crumb Topping

The crust is very flaky, the filling is very tasty and the crumb topping is sweet and crunchy, thus the ideal combination for a quick and easy home-style light apple pie that is every bit as delicious as the high calorie versions but a lot easier on the waist line!

Ingredients:

10 fillo (phyllo) dough sheets
½ cup oatmeal
1/3 cup Splenda brown sugar blend
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons light butter
1 (20-ounce) can no sugar added apple pie filling
1(.14-ounce) pouch Alpine spiced cider sugar-free apple flavor drink mix from a (1.4-ounce) box of 10 pouches

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

Make Pie Shell:

Take 10 sheets of fillo (phyllo) dough and lay them flat.
Spray each sheet of dough with butter flavor cooking spray. Individually stack the sheets into a pie plate like tire spindles, crossing in the center. Allow the extra to hang over the sides of the pie plate.
With sharp scissors, cut the fillo (phyllo) dough hanging off the edges of the pie plate.
Place pie dough in oven for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown.
Make Granola:

Take the cut off excess of fillo (phyllo) dough and finely chop it. Place in a medium size mixing bowl.
Add to mixing bowl ½ cup oatmeal, 1/3 cup Splenda brown sugar blend, 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice mix and 2 tablespoons light butter.
Using a spatula cut the ingredients together. Set aside.
Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
Spread the oatmeal mixture on the baking sheet. Bake for 4-5 minutes, just until the butter melts.
Remove from oven and with a spatula stir the oatmeal mixture around the baking sheet making a caramelized granola.
Make Pie Filling:

In a microwave safe mixing bowl combine 1 (20-ounce) can no sugar added apple pie filling and 1(.14-ounce) pouch Alpine spiced cider sugar-free apple flavor drink mix from a (1.4-ounce) box of 10 pouches.
Cover with wax paper and cook in microwave for 2 minutes. Stir and heat for 1 additional minute.

Assemble Pie:

Place the apple filling in the made pie shell.
Top with the granola that you made and serve.

Yield: 6 servings

Calories per serving: 188 (15% fat); Total fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 5 mg; Carbohydrate: 37 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Protein: 2 g; Sodium: 125 mg

Diabetic Exchanges: 2 1/2 carbohydrate, 1/2 fat

Helpful Hint:

This pie needs to be eaten the same day it’s made or the crust will become soggy.
This pie comes together very quickly so have all of your ingredients sitting out.
This pie does not freeze well.
Phyllo Dough (also spelled Fillo Dough) is in the freezer section. It comes in 1-pound boxes. Each box has about 40 sheets in one box of Phyllo dough. It is super simple to work with, so do not be intimidated to use it, if you never have before.


Supplies List :

Oven
Pie plate
Sharp scissors
Timer
Cutting board
Medium sized mixing bowl
Baking sheet
Microwave safe mixing bowl
Wax paper
Microwave oven

Grocery List :

DAIRY

Light butter

FROZEN

10 fillo (phyllo) dough sheets

PACKAGED

Oatmeal (1/2 cup needed)
1 (20-ounce) can no sugar added apple pie filling
1 (.14-ounce) pouch Alpine spiced cider sugar-free apple flavor drink mix

PANTRY

Splenda brown sugar blend
Pumpkin pie spice
Butter flavor cooking spray
Non-stick cooking spray

This recipe is provided by Dawn Hall and is from Busy People’s Fast & Frugal Cookbook - re-printed with permission.

A Tale of Two Restaurants: Bonefish Grill and Red Lobster Review

Given the opportunity to review Bonefish Grill and Red Lobster, I leapt at the chance. I love seafood, as does my husband, but the opportunity to be able to afford time and money to go out for a night rarely presents itself. So, when MS&L, on behalf of Bonefish Grill contacted me to check out and compare the two restaurants, I took them up on it without a second thought.

These are my personal findings of the restaurants - presented in a scaled format and are wholly unbiased.

I will say, before heading into the review waters here, that I found the comparison of these two places to be a bit like apples and oranges; they're vastly different in their approach to both seafood and dining, but I will leave you to read and let you know that I will most definitely be back to both places in the very near future. I loved them both.

Scaling is 1 for Poor and 5 for Excellent so the total Perfect Score for any restaurant would be 25.

  • Parking -

    Bonefish Grill 5 - The parking is directly in front of the restaurant and we chose to go at a later time - 8:45 PM, so there were lots of convenient spaces open.

    Red Lobster 5 - Being on a busy corner, the parking for Red Lobster is primarily off to one side, so it can sometimes be difficult to find a close spot. That being said, we also dined later in the evening here and had no trouble finding a good spot.

  • Ambiance -

    Bonefish Grill 4 1/2 - The only thing keeping this from a 5 was the fact that my seat was facing the side door of the restaurant - which was facing the Drive-Thru at Wendy's and the lights from the cars passing through were glaring at times. I liked the booth, it was very roomy and comfortable (my husband was able to sit the entire time comfortably - not easy to do with a broken hip) and the wall hangings and polished look overall was very nice.

    Red Lobster 5 - The very definite nautical feel of the restaurant is something my husband and I both enjoyed very much. The acoustics were good (we couldn't hear other conversations from our seat) and the lighting was just right.

  • Service -

    Bonefish Grill 4 1/2 - I will repeat this ad nauseum until restaurants listen up: I want to start, continue and finish with the same server - always. We had 5 different servers bring different parts of the meal to us and I find that very disturbing. I don't care if they want us to get our food on time - a single server should be able to do that no matter what. If your servers need that much help, then something needs to change. The servers we did have were very polite and our original server was more than professional - when she was there.

    Red Lobster 5 - At one point our dinner tray was brought out by a server that wasn't our own - I saw the girl carrying it look up at our server, who was across the room and shook his head at her, and then promptly set the tray down on the table adjacent to us. Two seconds later, our server was there and ready to do his job. He was perfect in every way - in fact, I haven't had that level of service from any restaurant in the past few years. It was a refreshing change and my husband and I both appreciated that.

  • Food -

    Bonefish Grill 4 1/2 - This was an easy 5, except for the fact that my husband's scallops were gritty and the side dishes were more of an afterthought than a dish. In fact, what should have been zucchini and tomatoes had no tomatoes whatsoever and I mistook the dish for a garnish. It was only after inspecting it that I realized it was the vegetable of the day.

    I started with the Bonefish House salad, which totally rocked. It was one of the best salads I have ever had; filled with pine nuts, Kalamata olives, hearts of palm and a divine citrus dressing - it was perfect. In fact, I'd go back just for the salad!

    We had a small loaf of bread delivered to the table with what the server called 'pesto'. It most definitely wasn't pesto, but rather closer to a bagna cauda. Either way, both the bread and the dip were delicious.

    My entree was the Ahi Tuna that was impeccably prepared to a medium doneness with a side of Jasmine rice, which was equally perfectly done and my husband had Sea Scallops and Shrimp, which were the proper doneness, but the scallops all still had some grit to them that was rather unpleasant. My husband doesn't like the usual sides and asked for fries with gravy. He said the fries were terrific and he was overall a happy camper.

    We finished off with the Macadamia Nut Brownie and I have to tell you, that was the best restaurant dessert I have ever had, hands-down. It was perfectly warm and yet the ice cream wasn't melting at all. It was truly decadent from start to finish, but we only ordered one, and I'm glad we did because there was no way I'd have been able to eat one myself.

    Red Lobster 4 1/2 - I started off with a house salad here, too. I asked for the Caesar and it came piled with freshly grated Parmesan and plenty of croutons, but the dressing was less garlicky than should be for a Caesar.

    My entree was the Honey BBQ Grilled Chicken and Shrimp which came with garlic mashed potatoes and pico de gallo. The chicken was perfectly done, moist and delicious. The shrimp were excellent - they were done just right and the wood-grilled flavor put them over the top. The broccoli side was done to perfection and quite large for a side, as well.

    My husband got the Endless Shrimp (of course) in Teriyaki and Cajun flavors and he had 50 shrimp by the end of his meal! He didn't like the french fries here as much as at BG.

    We ended with Warm Apple Crumble à la Mode (which we shared) with coffee and it was another excellent ending to a great meal.

  • Pricing -

    Bonefish Grill 5
    Red Lobster 5

    Both restaurants had good pricing for value. Red Lobster had larger portions, but Bonefish made up for that with well-prepared dishes.

    Total for Bonefish Grill: 23.5 out of 25
    Total for Red Lobster: 24.5 out of 25

    Bottom line? They're both very worth the trip and I will surely be back for more great seafood at both restaurants.

    Gift Cards provided by Anna Murphy of MS&L. This is not a paid product endorsement.

  • Thursday, October 08, 2009

    Carnation Evaporated Milk - The Cooking Milk


    Our Favorite Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon

    Our Favorite Macaroni and Cheese

    I recall at one time thinking that evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk were one and the same. Imagine that realization coming from attempting to substitute one for another. After that single incident, I shied away from evaporated milk, not really understanding what it was or why anyone would use it.

    I started getting back into it quite accidentally; my mother was moving to a smaller home and cleared out her overfull cabinets, passing the contents on to me and my brood. Within the cans and boxes given to me were several cans of evaporated milk. I figured if mom used it, it couldn't be all bad and there must be some way to use it up.

    I experimented and came to love it. It was cheaper than cream and healthier, too (twice the protein and calcium of regular milk) - but every bit as rich. When I used it for things like cream soups, baking pies or macaroni and cheese, there was no difference in performance between it and cream, but it was definitely creamier and richer than using milk. I now always have cans on-hand for things like my favorite salmon chowder and the kids' favorite macaroni and cheese. The fact that I like Carnation more than any other is par for the course here. I've used Carnation everything - including formula for my babies who needed extra help - since I've been old enough to purchase my own food.

    My mother used it for pies most often, but the fact that it translates so well into savory dishes seems to have been lost on her. Here are two recipes using Carnation Evaporated Milk that are pretty near perfection. The first recipe, Loaded Potato Potluck Favorite, comes from the Carnation Holiday Cookbooklet. You can download it for yourself here: http://bit.ly/CEMholiday
    These were awesome and didn't last very long at all. The green onion is optional, but I love the stuff, so there's no way I would leave it out. I think it added just the right contrast to the cheese and bacon, too.


    Creamy, delicious, perfect.

    The second is our own favorite macaroni and cheese - see photo above. Using evaporated milk in lieu of regular milk does nothing but make this even better than usual. The cheese seemed to melt better in the evaporated milk and the overall result is heavenly.

    Our Favorite Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon
    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Total Time: 50 minutes
    Serves 8
    1 pound elbow macaroni - cooked al dente
    1 can (12 ounces) Carnation Evaporated Milk (any fat content works as well as the next)
    1 pound (4 cups) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
    1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
    1/2 pound bacon - cooked crisp and crumbled
    1 teaspoon Kosher salt
    1 teaspoon smoked paprika

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
    2. In a small saucepan heat evaporated milk gently just until hot. Do not boil.
    3. Add shredded Monterey Jack cheese and stir until melted. Add salt and paprika and blend well.
    4. Toss cooked macaroni with bacon and pour cheese mixture over all. Stir and pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish.
    5. Top with cheddar cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly and just beginning to brown.

    For more information about Carnation Evaporated Milk, check out the following links:

    Cooking Benefits of evaporated milk:
    http://bit.ly/cookingbenefits

    Nutrition Info:
    http://bit.ly/o2onutrition

    The different types of evaporated milk:
    http://bit.ly/rightmilkforyou

    Carnation Virtual Kitchen:
    http://bit.ly/carnationvirtualkitchen

    Additional Recipe Ideas:
    http://bit.ly/additionalrecipes

    Recipe Personality Quiz:
    http://bit.ly/recipepersonalityquiz

    Coupons for product and stipend for recipes graciously provided by Carnation and Cassie Boorn of One2One Network. This is not a paid product endorsement.